Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Old Acquaintance, Drinking Games and Scratching up Icicles

I am crashing at a friend's house and sleeping on her dog's mattress. For the past 8 days it has been wake up, pack up, go climbing, get home, make bread, eat, sleep, repeat. 

What a shitshow
Mr. Fitz (short for Mount Fitzroy in Patagonia) has kindly been allowing me to sleep on his bed. What a bro.  
My new cuddle buddy Mr. Fitz.
So ice climbing. I've climbed waterfalls four times last year before coming to Hyalite Canyon. The goal was to start leading ice. This mission was accomplished on day 2 with a scraggly, scratchy, R-rated WI3, followed by a much-better protected beautiful WI4 flow.

My first ice lead ever on a sketchy WI 3

My second ice lead: a well-protected WI 4 called Champagne Sherbet

Hyalite has no shortage of climbing partners, ranging from the bizarre, to crazy to just plain badass. Everyone's down to climb all the time. Be it mixed, dry tooling or ice.

Pete leading his first WI5 like a champ. Complete with an ice chimney and plenty of protection.
Mclean getting on some M7 route.
 If you think about it, we're all a bit insane. We hike through the woods, freeze our asses off, in order to find a frozen waterfall tucked away somewhere high up in the cliffs, and then we try to scale it without falling.

A prime specimen of some waterfall up at 7000 feet that Mclean is stoked about climbing.

Leading a climb called "Feeding the Cat"
 Leading ice is... fun. You get sketched out and scared and you run things out inadvertently, because placing an ice screw is sometimes impossible, the ice quality is complete shit, or you just ran out of ice screws because those things are damn expensive.

Also ice has the tendency to melt, fracture, dinner-plate and turn back into a flowing waterfall. An example can be seen above, where I am debating between doing a sketchy top-out onto wet rock or traversing over the giant, hollow hole at my feet.

You also go on an adventure pretty much every day. The approach is what the lay person would consider a good hike in the woods, usually involving some interesting creek crossings that require acrobatic balancing skills and bushwhacking up icy slopes at altitude.

A slog through knee-deep gullies is sometimes a requirement.

You find cool things though: Caves, igloos, moss... 

Mclean questioning the stability of the icicles above him.

 You find trees to climb when you get tired of ice.

Pete: the guy responsible for getting me out to Hyalite. 
 One day we found an igloo.

 It was a badass igloo.

 The views are amazing as long as it's not storming.

Sometimes, (ok pretty often) some mild discomfort is experienced while ice climbing.

Screaming barfies are my personal fave. Your hands feel like they're being hit by a sledgehammer. You're usually on lead and have to keep your shit together while hanging by an ice ax above your head with one hand, while you desperately try to shake and warm up the other so that you don't plummet onto some shitty ice screw you placed 15 feet below you. And throughout all of this you're trying not to be too much of a wuss about it, because come on, you're a hardo ice climber....but it hurts so fucking much!

 More ice leading (thanks Butters for the photos!)

Mclean patiently belaying me as I try not to get too wet from the waterfall running beneath the ice.

Spindrift in the face and down the shirt is another staple of waterfall ice. Especially when you decide to get on a multipitch alpine route during a winter storm warning against your better judgment. Or as Mclean liked to call it "for practice".
Mclean taking the wind like a champ.

Topping out a pitch and getting a full face of snow. 
 This is what we get for not heeding the weather advisory.
So. Much. Wind.
Belaying someone also typically involves freezing your ass off on a tiny ledge on a cliff somewhere, wondering why the sun always seems to be shining on the opposite side of the canyon that you're on. This is definitely a case of the "sun is always shining on the other side of the fence". 

 But we do get to climb some pretty sick frozen waterfalls.

And ice climbers are probably the most psyched, suffering-loving group of people I've ever met. 

Psyched, stoked, pumped. 

Glissading on our asses down a gully. 

 You meet people that you hung out with three years ago and partied with in Kentucky (as was the case for Butters and Mclean).
 Mixed climbing is a whole new beast. You climb with crampons and ice axes up rocks, and climb whatever ice is on the route. It's scratchy, the crampons make sickly noises on the rock, you have to slide your ice picks into cracks, torque them and then pray that they won't pop out on you and send you flying (or hit you in the face).

Overall ice/mixed climbing requires a lot of faith.

Adam at Bingo Cave on an M10. He has to traverse that overhanging roof and get to the ice way over on the left.
 Dry tooling also feels really insecure. Any minute your tools can pop with no warning or your crampons will slip, and you careen out, desperately trying not to crampon yourself in the leg or drop your ice tools on your belayer. (well, at least that's my version of mixed climbing because lets just say I'm not really good).

 Overall, it's actually quite fun.

Figuring out the moves, pulling on your tools. Plus your reach is extended by a good foot and a half because of your Edward Scissorhands extensions.

And these guys are psyched on climbing. We went to a gear expo for the Bozeman Ice Fest, where we got hooked up with some sweet chapstick, some RAB beanies, t-shirts.

What made my whole week was Conrad Anker recognizing me as "the Russian girl I met in Nepal from Seattle." That guy has a good memory.

For those of you who have slogged through reading my blog before, you might recall these two characters from my Nepal trip: Conrad on the left, Emily and I on the right.

It all came full circle. Two years ago I met them and some other climbers while trekking in the Himalayas. I didn't climb back then. I'd never even been to climbing gym. They seemed like a cool crowd. Conrad gave me "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" to read, and as a bookmark offered me a black and white photo of his then "project" he called the Shark Fin of Meru. This didn't mean much to me back then, it looked like a cool photo with a cool mountain with a black arrow pin-pointing how high he got on his last attempt and a weird lightning bolt and a peace sign.

Those guys inspired me to try out climbing. Fast forward to today, I'm loving the sport, and in case you haven't heard, Conrad finished his project this year.... and the world keeps going round and round. Thanks guys!

Below is the above-mentioned photo that I keep in my journal next to a sketch of the most beautiful mountain. Someday.

And what blog post wouldn't be complete without an ice climbing-themed drinking game?

1) Place an opened beer in your chalkbag and do a figure four move.

2) Chug this beer while still hanging in said position

3) Try not to fall as you unwind from the pretzel. 

Carbo-loading and training all in one. What hardos. NOTE: the author of this blog did not consume alcohol. 


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